After you meet Andrea, it's hard not to walk away brimming with enthusiasm - hers is infectious. One of the most inspiring things about her story is the concrete way in which she found proof that good food can change your life. Lucky for us all, Andrea has found numerous ways to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with others - you can browse some of them at www.AndreaBeaman.com.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
I had no desire to work in food. That wasn't my gig - I wanted to be a rock & roll DJ and spin Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, YES, and The Who all day long. But, fate had a very different job in store for me. I first became interested in food when my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. We went with the modern practice of chemotherapy and radiation and watched her wither away, growing weak and sickened by the chemicals and harsh treatments. She was nauseated all day, couldn't keep anything inside of her, lost of all her curly red hair, and lacked energy to get out of bed. My father read an article in a magazine about a doctor that had cured himself of pancreatic cancer by changing his diet. So, we tried it with my mom. Almost immediately, we noticed improvements in her energy levels, and her skin and lips regained their color; they were no longer that lifeless gray shade. But, it wasn't enough to bring her back to fully recovered health and life. After her death I made a mental note (more like a deep vow), "if I ever get sick, I am going to try food first, before any destructive bodily treatments."
And, that's exactly what I did... five years later when I was diagnosed with incurable thyroid disease. It was advised by my doctors that I needed to take radioactive iodine to destroy my thyroid and then take synthroid for the rest of my life. Thankfully, I declined that medical advice, and instead improved my diet and lifestyle. It took two years to heal my thyroid disease, but it was the best decision I ever made. And, that's how I got interested and fully immersed in food. I wanted to know everything about the food we eat and how it can affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually. And, each time I learned something new I wanted to shout it from the mountaintop and share it with my fellow humans living here on the planet. It's been 16 years since my diagnosis and I'm still learning and growing and sharing, and totally LOVING my life.
How did you get your current good food job?
My current food job, as an educator, came from taking the information I learned about food and how it can affect the body/mind/soul and sharing it with everyone and anyone I came in contact with. I started by teaching cooking classes to my friends and family out of my apartment in NYC. From there, it grew. I began sending proposals to teach classes at cooking schools and health and wellness centers. If given a soapbox, I would literally talk to EVERYONE I met and tell them that I was teaching people about the power of food. I was generating buzz, or positive energy, around what I was doing in the world and people began to notice and want to support me.
A friend of mine, Julie Austin, sent me a link to a show that was looking for chefs, so I applied. That little link turned out to be TOP CHEF season 1. After I finished that show, a producer contacted me and asked me to create a show for his new network; that show became Wise UP! and then we created my award-nominated show Fed UP! I also put my inspiration and information to pen and paper (well... actually to computer) and created three books that share wisdom about food that I have learned. I use those books as teaching tools to help guide other folks to getting balanced and healing with food. The bottom line... my current food job as an advocate/teacher for better quality food came from taking the information OUT of my head and putting it into the world by sharing it with everyone via classes, seminars and lectures, television shows, radio, and books.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
Suffering with a disease and watching my mom suffer from, and die, from a preventable disease, was the greatest motivation for me to begin looking at life from an entirely different perspective. If we don't have our health, we have nothing. My good food job came from getting my butt into the kitchen (and into my body) and doing some delicious work on my self.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
The greatest obstacle I had to overcome was my own self-doubt. I wondered, "who I am to teach anyone anything?" I didn't have a culinary degree, I didn't have a master's in science or biology, and I wasn't a doctor. I felt small and insignificant in the world of degrees, paperwork and pedigrees that speak of importance. My own personal experience was that the paperwork may not mean anything at all. And, I don't say that lightly. The doctors (three separate doctors) that diagnosed me with "incurable" thyroid disease all had degrees, and all were incorrect. I had to get beyond my own limited perspective of what I was capable of and let myself be guided by universal wisdom and share that with others. At no time did I want to call it quits. I wanted to share what I had learned but was stuck in how to do this. I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (it was called Gulliver's at that time) because a friend had recommended it. After meeting with the founder, Joshua, I liked his approach and way of teaching (deprogramming the mind). I also began reading inspiring books by Deepak Chopra (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success), Wayne Dyer (Real Magic, Creating Miracles in Everyday Life), and others. Once I got beyond my limited perspective of myself and what I was capable of, sharing information was easy. All I needed to do was believe in myself. There's a great quote by Norman Vincent Peale, "When people believe in themselves they have the first secret of success."
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
There are so many opportunities in food right now, and always will be. One thing is for sure in this life, people gotta eat! Whether you are feeding the people or teaching them how to feed themselves, there is always an opportunity. Nobody can do what you do best. Find out what that "best" thing is and do it.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
A lifetime of farm fresh, artisanal food that is lovingly prepared would be the ideal compensation for me. Fresh eggs, still warm from the chickens, fried for breakfast in the morning, sitting on top of a slab of sourdough bread slathered in grass-fed butter; salad greens from the garden for lunch with roasted beets and goat cheese; slow-roasted duck (in winter) with roots and tubers, and sautéed greens for dinner. I'm talking YUM!
Andrea urges you to find your place in the movement. What leaders do you admire most for finding 'their place' in the good food movement?